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Driving While Impaired in Minnesota: Degrees of DWI Charges

As in other states, driving while impaired (DWI) in Minnesota is a serious offense that leads to serious punishments for the offender ranging from suspension of your driver’s license to jail time.

Worse, it can also lead to fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that although drunk driving fatalities have dropped considerably over the last 30 years, there were still 10,265 deaths from drunk driving crashes in 2015.

Defining Impaired Driving

In Minnesota, you can be charged with DWI if your blood-alcohol content is above 0.08 percent. However, you can also be charged with DWI in the following circumstances, even if your blood-alcohol content is below 0.08 percent:

  • Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of 0.04 percent.
  • Driving with any blood-alcohol content if you are underage.
  • Special considerations of the particular violation.

Degrees of DWI Charges in Minnesota

There are four degrees of charges for DWI offenses.

Fourth Degree DWI

No test refusal, no aggravating factors.

  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Up to $1,000 fine

Third Degree DWI

Test refusal, or one aggravating factor.

  • Gross misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to $3,000 fine

Second Degree DWI

Test refusal and one aggravating factor, or two aggravating factors.

  • Gross misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to $3,000 fine

First Degree DWI

Fourth incident of DWI in ten years, or a previous felony DWI or criminal vehicular operation conviction.

  • Felony
  • Up to seven years in jail
  • Up to $14,000 fine

The charge you receive will depend upon the circumstances of the incident. Aggravating factors include having a blood-alcohol content of .16 or more when you are arrested, driving with a passenger under the age of 16 (if more than 36 months younger than the driver), and having a prior impaired driving incident on your record.

Administrative Sanctions

In addition to criminal penalties, you are also subject to administrative sanctions. These will vary according to how many DWI offenses you have committed and whether or not there are any aggravating factors present in the incident. These can include revoking your driver’s license, impounding your license plates, forfeiting your vehicle, and requiring the use of ignition interlock. (Interlock requires a breath test before you are able to start the vehicle.)

If you lose your driving privileges, keep in mind that depending on the particulars of your case, reinstating your license will usually require you to complete the driver’s license application and pay the fee, take and pass a DWI knowledge test, complete a chemical health assessment, and pay the reinstatement fee, which in the case of criminal vehicular operation and drug- and alcohol-related offenses is $680.

For the first offense, these sanctions can be as minor as 90 days of no driving privileges (or 30 days if you plead guilty to DWI). By the fourth offense in 10 years, your license can be cancelled as “inimical to public safety”. Each situation is different.

Facing a DWI Charge

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 25,000 people are arrested every year on DWI charges in Minnesota. If you become one of them, you need to speak with a St. Paul DWI attorney immediately.

A DWI conviction can raise your insurance rates and prevent you from getting a job, not to mention how years in jail will affect you and your family. Driving while impaired is a mistake, but we all make mistakes and deserve the opportunity to set them right.

With the right defense, we might be able to lessen the severity of the charge or the penalties. Rogosheske, Rogosheske & Atkins can provide the experienced legal expertise you need and deserve at a time like this. Contact us to request a free consultation, or call our St. Paul office at 651-451-6411 to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this page does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Be sure to contact our law office to discuss your case with an attorney.